The widow of a U.S. Army veteran who was shot and killed in the Aug. 3 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, has filed a $1 million wrongful death lawsuit against the convenience store chain.
Attorneys Randy Sorrels and Jason Muriby of Abraham, Watkins, Nichols, Sorrels, Agosto & Aziz filed the lawsuit Oct. 18 on behalf of Patricia Benavides, wife of Arturo Benavides, who was slain in the mass shooting, which claimed the lives of 21 other people.
The lawsuit claims that Walmart Inc. and Walmart Stores Texas, LLC -- referred to as the Wal-Mart Defendants -- knew about previous "shooting incidents at their other stores in Texas and around the nation," and had a "duty to have security guards and other security measures at its stores, to discourage such shootings and to engage any shooter that may attempt to harm their employees or customers," according to a news release.
Walmart sent the following statement to Military.com when contacted about the lawsuit.
"We will never forget this tragic event, and our condolences continue to go out to everyone who was affected," company spokesman Randy Hargrove said. "Safety is a top priority, and we care deeply about our associates and customers. We will respond as appropriate with the court."
Arturo Benavides, a former Army staff sergeant who served his country for 23 years in the active-duty Army and National Guard, was standing in a checkout line at Walmart when 21-year-old Patrick Wood Crusius -- who is also named as a defendant in the lawsuit -- entered the store and allegedly started shooting.
Benavides and his wife had a habit of doing their weekly shopping at that Walmart every Sunday after church. But that Saturday morning, Arturo decided to make the trip a day earlier than usual, the couple's niece, Jacklin Luna, told the Los Angeles Times.
Patricia Benavides, 63, had left the checkout line to find a place to sit and rest, when Crusius entered the store and opened fire, shooting customers inside, according to the news release. It added that Patricia was pushed into a bathroom, where she was able to escape the gunman.
Arturo Benavides served in the active-duty Army from June 1978 to January 1984. He then joined the Texas Army National Guard in February 1984 and served until June 2001. He served as a motor transport operator, cargo specialist and MIM-23 Hawk surface-to-air missile system crewman.
Benavides "was highly accomplished and received recognition for his service," the release states. He had earned the Army Achievement Medal, Army Good Conduct Medal and an Adjutant General Individual Award through the Texas Army National Guard, among other awards.
After the Army, Arturo worked as a bus driver for Sun Metro for 20 years until his retirement in 2013.
"Mr. Benavides was also a dedicated family man," the release states. "He married Mrs. Benavides -- his best friend and soulmate -- more than 30 years ago. He cared about his family deeply and would take the time to call his family members on a weekly basis, to see how they were doing. He also enjoyed sharing stories and cherished the conversations he had with others."
Walmart has had a long history of problems with crime at its stores, according to the lawsuit's official Petition in Intervention documents.
In 2015, an Indiana town declared the local Walmart a public nuisance because of crime at the store; in June 2016, an armed man took two employees hostage and was later shot by police at a Walmart in Amarillo, Texas, court documents claim.
Just a few days before the shooting in El Paso, an armed man shot and killed two people and injured a third at a Walmart in Southaven, Mississippi, the documents allege.
"Despite years of rampant crime at its stores, the Wal-Mart Defendants did not take necessary and reasonable steps to protect their customers on August 3, 2019, at the Wal-Mart Supercenter in El Paso, Texas," according to the Benavides lawsuit. "It was the responsibility of the Wal-Mart Defendants to provide security to the premises due to the capacity of patrons at the premises. Despite the crowd at the premises on the day of the shooting, no security guards were provided to protect the patrons at the premises."
Walmart recently filed a cross claim to the Benavides lawsuit, asserting that "on August 3, 2019, Defendant Patrick Crusius (“Defendant Crusius”) of Allen, Texas, attacked El Paso and carried out a campaign of violence and murder. That loss of life and harm were caused intentionally and solely by Defendant Crusius."
-- Matthew Cox can be reached at email@example.com.